Presbyterian College students study the flora and fauna of Australia firsthand

Presbyterian College students study the flora and fauna of Australia firsthand


Dr. Michael Rischbieter and Dr. Jim Wetzel of the biology department recently led a Maymester trip to Australia. Twenty PC students joined them as they spent one week in Melbourne, the second most populous city in Australia, and one week in Tasmania, an island state separated from the Australian mainland by the Bass Strait.

Prior to the trip, students studied the flora, fauna, geologic history, and native culture of Australia and more specifically Tasmania. The professors intended for each student to become an expert on some aspect of what the group would experience once they finally arrived in country.

Once in Australia, the group spent their time on the Australian mainland exploring Melbourne, hiking through Trentham Falls Scenic Park, enjoying the views at Mornington Peninsula, and journeying to see the Indian Ocean. In Tasmania, the group had the opportunity to collect plants at Ben Lomond National Park, work with Tasmanian devils at Cradle Mountain Preserve, take a ferry to Bruny Island, and feed kangaroos at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.

Summer-maymester2The students and professors from the trip agreed that the trip’s emphasis on the local flora and fauna of Australia was its best feature.

“The highlight of the trip, for me, was the flora of Australia. It was just so different from anything I had ever seen before,” said Rischbieter, whose research interests include paleoecology, the ecology of fossil plants and animals, and palynology, the study of pollen grains and other spores.

“The highlight of the trip was interacting with and learning about the Australian wildlife,” said Lauren Denton. “I have a deeper appreciation for biological diversity after experiencing Australia’s diversity compared to the environment in which I live.”

“This trip gave me the chance to observe with my own eyes what we had learned in the classroom throughout the semester, including the history, flora and fauna of Australia and Tasmania,” said Kia Mattison. “I am a very visual learner, so this trip was an amazing learning experience.”

Mattison also noted how Australians place more emphasis on animal conservation, an aspect of Australian culture that impressed many on the trip.

Summer-Maymester“I would say that the highlights of the trip included going to various conservation sites, animal sanctuaries, and zoos,” said Savannah Wicker. “I got to see a lot of conservation efforts for the many endangered marsupials in Australia and increase my knowledge on the subject, which will benefit me in my future veterinary medicine studies.”

Rischbieter also remarked on Australia’s more concentrated societal focus on “going green,” saying, “From dual-flushing toilets to very good public transit, recycling, and more, the Australians just seem to be ahead of us on those issues. They also really focus on organic farming practices and always seem to have a farmer’s market nearby where people can get fresh fruits and veggies.”

“Being in a foreign land challenges you in a bunch of ways, and this challenge alone, being out of your comfort zone on someone else’s home turf, is a huge character building and eye-opening experience,” Rischbieter added. “The students came away with a far better feeling for what the world outside of PC, Clinton, South Carolina, the Southeast, and the USA is really like.”



Presbyterian College is located on a striking 240-acre campus in Clinton, between Columbia and Greenville, S.C. Offering challenging academics and a culture of honor, ethics, and service that prepares students to be leaders in communities, PC offers its students the benefit of engaging with an exceptional faculty who take individual interest in their students’ well-being, both personally and in the classroom. The Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy opened in 2010, and is dedicated to the ideals of leadership, honor to the profession, and service to the community. For more information about Presbyterian College, visit